First off, buying a new PC ASAP isn't an option (I hope I can get a better answer than that here ), trying out different hardware in different PC isn't possible either. Let's get to the details.
What the f*** is happening?
Every time I try to change either screen resolution or color depth, the machine crashes and almost instantly reboots. The reboot part isn't the most unusual problem because it's set to auto-reboot on crash so obviously I'd like to know why does it crash in the first place. It happens as well with games as regular attempt to change the res. via OS' screen properties.
How does it crash exactly?
After the resolution changes (it really does) in about 2 seconds everything freezes (sound loops for a short moment) and bang goes the reboot as if I would press restart. No blue screen, no error message just either a black screen and/or some artifacts on the top of the screen, depending on the resolution it may be 1-2 lines up to 10% of the screen - the lower the res. the more artifacts, almost as if the GFX-card would try to show them and manage only to do a particular amount (hence - more at lo-res).
Also the time varies, from 1s to even 3s. It looks as if it would be unable to "hold" the new resolution for a long time.
Are there any exceptions? Does it always happen?
That's the funny thing. Sometimes it doesn't. I can't exactly tell why and under what conditions, but it looks like it needs time to "adapt" to the new resolution before it saves the new settings ("decides" to run with them). Therefore, the only way I've managed to change the resolution/color depth (after installing new drivers, for example) is to almost let the 15s counting down after the change almost to run out and then click OK. This way it stays and after a normal restart it keeps it, once I try to hit OK right after "apply" - crash and we're back at the previous res.
Also, I have only 256MB RAM so most of the time the OS has to use physical memory and I observed (can't be 100% sure about that, though) that when I start a game while the system has been up for a long time and run many other memory consuming applications in the background and while the game changes the resolution, the HDD has to "take" some more of the paging file, it may not crash as if the required couple of seconds when it would pass and then it's able to keep the settings, just as in case of changing res. from the OS.
I know - sounds crazy.
What can NOT be the problem?
I'm 100% sure that it's NOT:
1. The graphic card (physically) - it started to happen years ago (haven't played games in a long time so it didn't really bothered me) with a GeForce 2 GTS that died recently, the new one is a GeForce 3 and exactly the same thing happens the same way.
2. The monitor - beside the fact that I doubt a monitor would be able to force the system to reboot, I've started with a 4:3 CRT screen years ago (also died quite recently) and now have a 16:10 LCD screen - same thing here.
3. Video cable - also, can't imagine how it should work, but same problem via the old D-Sub cable and now the new DVI-D connection.
4. Overheating - it happens while changing to a higher AND to a lower resolution, as well right after first start in the morning and after hour of work and even, as mentioned earlier, it looks like sometimes it even works "on stress".
5. 3D graphics or other advanced visual... things - I can run windowed 3D games and nothing happens, also the DX-Diag test work... except of course the full-screen one that changes the resolution - or... it works for a second or two.
6. Dust - PC is cleaned every couple of months, have changed the thermal paste on both the CPU and GPU (on the old card).
7. Power consumption - if it was a power problem there would be no way of overcoming the problem and the PC should crash when running a windowed game when the GFX card takes more power, but even plugging a second HDD doesn't make any difference.
Beside that, I'm... quite sure it's not:
1. OS - Started with the old Windows 98 SE, happens at Windows 2000 Professional as well.
2. Memory - although I've had some blue screens while running too many memory consuming processes, MEMtest doesn't show any errors at all.
What CAN be the problem? What did I do when it started?
As for what did I do when it started - good question, next question. If I knew this I probably wouldn't have this problem.
What I think it may be:
1. Memory - although MEMtest doesn't show any problems - it's RDRAM, FFS, it's old as [bleep] (~8 years), it's non-ECC, I've bought 2 x 256 and tired to run: only them (+2 terminators (or how are these empty ones called) on the empty slots... that's RDRAM) - unstable/crash/blue screen/doesn't even boot sometimes, these and 2 of my old ones making it 640 MB - worked one day, the other didn't always, next day didn't boot at all, then once did... etc. So maybe that's what's f***ed up.
2. Video drivers - tried a lot of them with the old card always updated when new ones came out up to the... umm... 7x.xx detonator (can't recall now) - always made it better, then just couldn't install better detonators as they didn't support my card anymore. BUT, the GF3 ran as well with the old ones from the GF2, then some new 8x.xx ones and now I've got the best possible before that can be installed which is ForceWare 93.71. Although the problem happened with any driver, maybe it's not the memory consumption that made the 2 games I've checked run before, but the "worse" drivers? On the other hand - even then, I couldn't change the desktop resolution without problems.
3. DirectX - that was my most probable theory. When I bought the PC, AFAIR DX8.1 was the recent one (or was it DX7?), anyway I remember having some issues with one update... years ago, I think it was DX9.0c, the one I'm on right now. I remember even using the DX-eradicator to downgrade to 9.0 (or 9.0a...b...?), but unfortunately, I can't remember exactly what was the problem. Anyway, I've tried to downgrade to 9.0b yesterday (with the old trick of changing the version number in the registry to force it to "update") and didn't help either. Still, maybe someone's sure that's it...?
4. Motherboard - that's where I'm green. I'm not into electronics so I have no idea what could break there or cause this problem and I haven't updated the BIOS so that's up to you, Experts - is it possible?
What's the config?
Can be found in my profile, but in a nutshell, the most relevant parts are:
ECS P4ITA i850
P4 Willamette 1.3 GHz
256 MB RDRAM
Leadtek GeForce 3
I know, an ancient "technology". Don't play games at all, wanted to run 2 old ones to kill some time, but got the old resolution changing "reminder" again.